STAFF REVIEW / Mastodon - Stairway to Nick John
The past weekend, GRAMMY® Award-winning hard rock iconoclasts Mastodon released their ultimate tribute to longtime manager and close friend Nick John, by releasing a limited edition 10” vinyl pressing of Led Zeppelins’ iconic “Stairway To Heaven” under the banner of “Stairway To Nick John” exclusively for Record Store Day. As of today, all 1,500 copies are sold out. Mastodon’s take on this classic featured the studio version along with a live version on the B-side. We asked not one, but three of our staff members for their opinions & thoughts on Stairway to Nick John.
Proceeds to benefit Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
Following the passing of their longtime friend and manager, Grammy Award winning, heavy metal legends Mastodon have released an limited edition 10’’ pressing of their cover of Led Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven, under the banner “Stairway To Nick John” for Record Store Day. The record, which sold out of its 1,500 copies, features a live version of the song as well as a studio version.
The single will receive a wide release on all digital retailers on May 17th, in celebration of the life Nick John. All proceeds will go to benefit the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, which you can receive more information about here.
Stairway to Nick John is as powerful as the original version, and a worthy cover of such an iconic track. Drummer Brann Dailor takes on the lead vocals, replacing Plant’s otherworldly high notes for a softer, heartfelt register.
Upon his passing, the band released the following statement: “In early September 2018 we lost one of our closest friends and our biggest fan, our manager Nick John. He was essentially the band’s Dad. From our highest highs to our lowest lows he was always there. Every single move we made went through him first as our trust in him was marrow deep. His favorite band besides us and Gojira, was Led Zeppelin. We were asked to perform “Stairway to Heaven” at his funeral. Afterwards, finding out that someone had recorded it, we figured we should record a studio version and release it on RSD as a tribute to Nick with all the proceeds to be donated to pancreatic cancer research. We would not be the band we are today without the help of Nick John. We miss him dearly and think of him always. We love you buddy!”
Mastodon previously announced a tour co-headlined by Coheed and Cambria. The band will play their hit 2009 album, Crack the Skye in its entirety each night. You can purchase tickets here.
With any cover of a classic song, I get nervous. Sometimes covers are hit or miss for me because they either try too hard to match the original or it strays too far from the original. There needs to be a good happy medium where you know what the song is, but there is still a slight change that it becomes another piece of art. With their cover of Stairway To Heaven, Mastodon’s lead singer, Eric Saner, encaptures an almost haunting dystopian feel to the lyrics. The guitar solo and hard rock section was sped up and slightly changed to fit their talents. They were able to reimagine the song to fit their style while also paying homage to Led Zeppelin in a way that also made you feel their pain of losing a close friend. It was beautifully done from beginning to end. Of course no one can beat the original, but this was still a masterpiece in its own right that separates it from the countless other covers.
All digital digital retailers will be releasing the song May 17, 2019 on their platforms. If you would like to learn more about the organization that will be receiving the funds from the sales of this single, you can find the information at pancreatic.org. Mastodon will be on tour starting May 28th with Coheed and Cambria. Information on their tour can be found at mastodonrocks.com.
John passed in September of 2018 after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was an incredibly respected member of the music world, having worked with Rick Sales Entertainment group for over 20 years and acting as a “dad” to Mastodon through the years. Mastodon credits much of their success as a band to Nick John’s impact on them both as a band and as individuals, lovingly referring to him as a sort of “dad” to the band.
Nick John was a huge fan of Zeppelin, and Mastodon was asked to perform “Stairway to Heaven” at his funeral in celebration of his life. Mastodon found out that their tribute performance had been recorded, and decided to hit the studio to record a special edition version for Record Store Day, with all proceeds donated to Pancreatic Cancer Research in honor of their friend. All 1,500 vinyl copies sold out, but Mastodon will be releasing a digital version worldworld on May 17th, with the proceeds benefiting the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
“Stairway to Nick John” is not only an incredible tribute to John, but it is also extremely emotional and hauntingly beautiful to listen to. You can absolutely feel the emotions and the love that Mastodon has for their friend. Not only does this cover do justice to Led Zeppelin’s original version, it also beautifully memorializes the life and impact of Nick John. It is extremely heartwarming to see John’s friends take such noble strides to remember him through their cover and their donation to pancreatic cancer research.
Make sure to download and stream Stairway to Nick John when it is released on May 17th and consider donating to the Hirshberg Foundation on behalf of Nick John and the impact his life had on Mastodon and so many others in the music industry and in his personal life.